How a 99-Year-Old Company Pivoted with a Digital Transformation
When you hear Pitney Bowes, the first thing that probably comes to mind is postage scales. But over the past five years, this near-centenarian company has undergone a dramatic transformation. In a pivot toward shipping and e-commerce technology, Pitney Bowes has implemented a digital transformation strategy that’s arguably setting the new industry standard. (Just ask PwC, who’s said: “Doing digital right doesn’t mean you need to become the next Amazon, Netflix, or Google-or even the next Pitney Bowes.”)
Of course, no digital transformation can be called truly successful if it’s not driving business results. After years of stalled growth, in 2018 Pitney Bowes saw its second consecutive year of revenue growth, marking its best revenue growth in a decade.
So how does a 99-year-old mailing solutions company become a leading technology company? I recently sat down with its chief marketing officer, Bill Borrelle, to find out how Pitney Bowes has successfully reinvented itself for the modern world.
1. Change people’s perceptions.
“As a marketer,” says Bill, “we needed to recraft the narrative of the company, leaning on the proof points that already existed, and laying the runway for where we would go.”
In order to start changing perceptions and help both employees and consumers think differently about the company, Bill’s team launched a branding effort that reframed Pitney Bowes as “the craftsmen of commerce.” With this new lens, they’re placing the company at the crossroads of two seemingly counterintuitive ideas–the legacy of its history and the modernity of technology–and linking their past and their future together.
As just one proof point of their digital transformation, these “craftsmen of commerce” created the SendPro, a first-of-its-kind sending device for the modern mailer that combines hardware, software, and Internet-of-Things capabilities. The product is the embodiment of the tension between heritage and modernity–leveraging the precision the company is known for with the technology that’s shaping the future of commerce.
Already, the industry has started to see Pitney Bowes in a new light, with the company winning design awards typically won by cutting-edge technology companies. Last year, for example, its SendPro C-Series was recognized by the International Design Awards.
2. Transform the customer experience.
At the heart of its digital transformation strategy, Pitney Bowes aims to reimagine the customer experience. Says Bill, “Our goal was to be completely relevant to our clients in today’s changing world of commerce.” In order to deliver on that, the company needed to create products that would seamlessly merge the physical and the digital worlds.
This meant that all mailing devices became smart–suddenly, those iconic postage meters were connected to the internet, delivering real-time information. With a product called Relay, customers can now easily choose whether to deliver a message through physical mail or through email. All of these solutions are underpinned by the Pitney Bowes Commerce Cloud, a SaaS common data platform built on AWS.
As another milestone in its digital transformation journey, Pitney Bowes created a digital ecosystem that would enhance the customer experience regardless of how they interact with the company. Today, 600,000 of the roughly one million Pitney Bowes customers engage with its streamlined online experience–where they can do everything from buy supplies and view postage usage to learn USPS rates and seek technical support.
The result? Customer satisfaction ratings have increased significantly, and Pitney Bowes has more than doubled online sales thanks to its e-commerce experience.
3. Rethink the fundamentals of marketing.
Today’s technology can’t be marketed with outdated thinking. So while Pitney Bowes employs many of the hallmarks of modern marketing–data that enables unprecedented personalization and a tech stack with 70 marketing technologies–Bill also made a point of modernizing the foundational principles. Revitalizing the “4 P’s” from the 1960s, he introduced the mantra of the modern marketer: precision, pace, profit, and people.
In doing so, Bill was delivering a larger message about staying on the cutting edge of marketing just as they push the limits of technology. As he says, “I wanted the 250 marketers at Pitney Bowes to be modern marketers and raise the bar for ourselves.”
Toward the end of our conversation, Bill revealed something I thought was really fascinating: He told me that 80 percent of consumers still prefer to receive physical statements and invoices. It was a reminder that for all the strides companies like Pitney Bowes are making, there’s still a broader digital transformation happening today.
Or, as Bill says: “We’re a different company, but we’re still going. We have more to do.”
What does this mean for YOU? No matter what your size or industry, how can you take the lessons learned from Pitney Bowes’ digital transformations and apply them to your own business? With clever marketing and a focus on customer experience, you too can transform your business and prepare it for 2020 and beyond.